US intelligence agencies are on high alert for the 2016 U.S. Presidential election, stating that hackers from Russia or elsewhere might try to attack the voting system or undermine the credibility of one of the candidates by releasing fake documents.
The collective defense effort is said to be coordinated by the White House and the DHS (Department of Homeland Security), but the CIA, the NSA and other Department of Defense groups could be involved in a coordinated effort to fend off possible cyberattacks or misinformation attempts. Stating that any attempt at disrupting or manipulating the US voting system would be considered a serious breach, officials have warned Russia that such transgressions will not be tolerated.
“The Russians are in an offensive mode and [the U.S. is] working on strategies to respond to that, and at the highest levels,” said the U.S. ambassador to Russia from 2012 to 2014, Michael McFaul.
While cyberattacks are something the DOD fears, the release of fake and scandalous documents involving a presidential candidate could also lead to significant reputational damages if the media lacks sufficient time for fact checking. Stating that such disruptions are not beyond Russia’s skills, a senior Obama administration official said preparation for such attacks is mandatory.
“We need to be prepared on every front, not just technical but messaging, and so on,” the official added. “Because any reporting irregularity could be incredibly disruptive. … They can cause tremendous chaos, and by the time we are able to attribute, the damage may have already been done.”
While no other specific details as to the nature of possible attacks were given, DHS officials have also speculated that the recent DDoS (Distributed Denial of Service) – involving Mirai, the largest botnet of compromised IoT (Internet-of-Things) devices – on service provider DYN could have been a rehearsal for a larger attack on 2016 Presidential Election Day.